Marking out the location of the concrete pads with plaster

31.05.15 | foundations

On Tuesday we had done the rough setting out and were ready for Clinton Putman, one of the fathers at the school who kindly helped us out with the digging. Luckily his machine just fit through the pathway to the site from the playground, and after marking out the foundation holes with plaster, he did the work in no time. In the end we didn’t use the shuttering that Lizzy, Nigel and I had spent the previous afternoon making: he was happy to come back for a second day of work, so it make sense to just pour the concrete into holes and dig around them once they had set. Clinton is a real pro, so managed to dig out the holes with almost perfectly vertical wall. He also pointed out that the way we had designed the foundations, with the steel shoes on the outer edges of each concrete pad, allowed very little tolerance when doing the precise setting out and bolting. We therefore added 100mm on each side, and made the depth a little shallower to make sure we didn’t run out of cement. Theses were perfect example of types of adjustments you have to make on site – and it was great to have Clinton’s experience translating the lines of a drawing into something that can actually be built. His wife Norma very sweetly packed us both a delicious lunch, and the sun was shining so it was a good day all round!

The following morning we had a visit from Building Control, who came to make sure the foundation holes were adequate; he requested that we dig a out a few more tree roots, but other than that said we could proceed with the concrete pour that afternoon, and he would visit again once the timber structure was raised. Just after he left, the concrete (which was very kindly been donated by Quattro) arrived on site. Unlike Clinton’s digger, there was no way this truck was going to squeeze through the path so it had to be transported bit by bit in the skip loader. Although it seemed pretty labour intensive, I remember pouring a entire first floor ring-beam using bowls balanced on our heads in India, so this was nothing compared to that! We used a laser level, again kindly donated by Hawes, to check each of the concrete pads were poured to exactly the same height and then smoothed the surface with a wooded plank and float.

True to his word, on Thursday Clinton was back to dig the remaining cavity. Much of the excavated earth was transported down to the bottom of the playing fields, but we also added some of it to an existing play mound adjacent to the site, and kept a pile in front of the building to be sculpted in a seating mound… an ideal place for an audience to sit once the structure is completed. This is something that the school has done elsewhere with earth excavated for other buildings, so it’s a nice tradition to continue. Late that evening Clinton’s brother Gary came over to help with the setting out of the steel shoes. These had been made with stainless steel procured and laser cut at cost with the help of Paul Elmidoro (a member of the local choir, the Lacey Green Singers), and very generously welded for free fabricated for free by the local steel works M. H. Hall in Loosely Row. They weren’t all quite ready by the time Gary arrived so we had to do some maths on site to work out the exact dimensions we needed; also I’d drawn the dims centre to centre, rather than from the edges, not realising how impossible it would be to measure with the shoe in the way (again a glitch in the translation from computer to reality!) Just before he left he helped us lift the gravel (kindly donated by Country Supplies – along with a lot of other material!) into the french drain and around the building, and space underneath it, to help with drainage.

On Friday my boyfriend Stewart, and two good friends Oli and Tess came up to the Farm to help complete the front portal frame at the Farm, while Nigel, Keith and I carried on at site drilling the holes for the steel shoes and tidying up the excavated earth. We were joined on Saturday by three more friends Jack, Davey and Marcus who helped trim, mitre and sand the roof planks – as well as do some hard work breaking up the paving slabs and loading up the second skip. And by the engineer Steve Webb, who kindly came up to help us resolve a few remaining details and talk through the on-site lifting / assembly. We were all well-fed thanks to a delicious lunch very sweetly cooked by the music teacher, Fiona! Stew ended up staying til the end of today, when we assembled the rest of the gable wall. Because he’d also helped out during the Easter workshop, he knew the pretty complicated system of jigs and guides that had been made to ensure all the screws and nails are evenly spaced – so it was great to have his help. Although the weather was against us and we were pretty soaked, we got through quite a lot and managed to return all the panels back to their storage site on the astro-turf by the end of the day. School starts back tomorrow, we’re going to push on through in the afternoons after classes and sports practice have ended at 4.30pm, so that we can finish everything off and get the structure up ASAP. Thank you all so much to all the volunteers for your energy and support, and to Nigel and Keith who has worked all through the 1/2 term break when he should have been on holiday!